New Delhi: Those who entered the Red Fort and hoisted Sikh religious flag ‘Nishan Sahib’ amid the farmers’ tractor rally on Republic Day did wrong, and need to be brought to book and punished, former Haryana CM and Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda has said.
In an exclusive interview to ThePrint, Hooda said the Congress supports the farmers’ demands, but does not endorse how things panned out in New Delhi on 26 January, when a section of farmers barged into the Red Fort, climbed the monument and hoisted the Nishan Sahib.
The Congress had condemned the violent clashes between the Delhi Police and the farmers, while several leaders also criticised the hoisting of the flag.
“The farmers’ movement is not being led by any political party. We have been supporting their demands, and always will. But no one has supported the violence. It is condemnable,” Hooda said.
Hooda said the people who went to the Red Fort aren’t even part of the farmers’ movement.
“All the farmers have been acting with great restraint. Those among them who went to the Red Fort did the wrong thing, and they aren’t even a part of the farmers’ movement,” Hooda said. “Those people need to be punished and brought to book.”
The senior leader added that “only talks can bring a solution” to the farmers’ agitation. “Kisi bhi taraf se hathh nahi honi chahiye. Sarkar ki taraf se toh kabhi bhi nahi (No side should be obdurate, definitely not the government),” he said.
Also read: ‘Is it so easy to breach Red Fort security?’ Trinamool MP Trivedi wants ‘high-level’ probe
BJP-JJP govt will collapse on its own
Hooda claimed that due to the rising tension between ruling allies BJP and JJP in Haryana, the people have lost trust in the government, and the Congress will soon move a no-confidence motion against it.
Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala’s JJP has a massive support base among farmers, and thus, has been under pressure to support the demand to repeal the Narendra Modi government’s three controversial farm laws. As many as five JJP MLAs have come out in support of the farmers’ protests, and against the farm laws.
One independent MLA, meanwhile, has withdrawn support from the government, while two more have come out in support of the protesting farmers.
“The BJP-JJP government has lost the trust of the people. Independent MLAs have withdrawn their support; JJP MLAs keep making pro-farmer protest statements,” Hooda pointed out.
“I have requested the governor to quickly call a session so that on the very first day, we can move a no-confidence motion. All the masks will be off then. The people who are saying something in public and something else privately… it will all become clear,” the former CM said.
Haryana Congress chief and former Union minister Kumari Selja had said many MLAs of the ruling alliance are in touch with her party, and that it will “use all constitutional methods” to ensure “a better alternative” in the state. But Hooda said the Congress is “not in a rush” to form the government, and wants to fulfil its “duty as the opposition”.
“We are not in a rush to form the government. We are raising our voice as the opposition — the duty the people of the state have given us,” Hooda said.
But he did recall that when BJP and JJP tied up to form the government in October 2019, he had criticised the alliance and “vote kisi ko, support kisi ko”, alluding to the fact that the JJP had contested the elections against Manohar Lal Khattar’s incumbent BJP government, but supported it nonetheless. “Today, we see that playing out. Aisi sarkarein apne wazan se hi gir jaati hain (such governments collapse under their own weight),” Hooda remarked.
Also read: Panic in Haryana’s BJP-JJP govt as pressure grows within for action on farm laws
‘Was never called to Ambala for mayoral election’
In December, while the BJP-JJP government suffered a setback in the Haryana local body polls, losing a number of seats across various bodies, the Congress lost the mayoral election in Ambala, Kumari Selja’s home turf.
In fact, the Congress only won one of the three mayoral seats — Sonepat, where Hooda had campaigned extensively. He was missing in action from Ambala and Panchkula, but said he was never asked to campaign in the neighbouring districts near Chandigarh.
“Look, I would have definitely gone had I been asked to. Neither the candidate nor anyone else asked me to go, so I didn’t,” Hooda said.
“In Sonepat, the candidate called me. I had helped her get the ticket, and this was her first time fighting on our party’s ticket… If they called me to Ambala, I would have gone there too,” he insisted.
‘Party needs to become stronger organisationally’
Hooda was one of the 23 senior leaders who wrote a letter to Congress’ interim president Sonia Gandhi in August last year, demanding a full-time party president and elections to the Congress Working Committee, among other things. Hooda welcomed the party’s recent statement that it will have an elected president by June at any cost, as well as assurances that CWC polls would be held.
In Hooda’s opinion, the Congress needs to be made stronger organisationally, and all the leaders need to sit together and put their minds to it.
“For instance, there have been no district or block presidents in the Haryana Congress in the last six years. How will the party fight, then? We all need to sit together and think about how to strengthen the party,” he added.
Also read: Infighting, Hooda ‘politics’, structural gaps — why Congress’s Haryana unit appears messy